Months pass before I’d hear from him.
He didn’t have to say hello.
Ice tinkling in his glass said it all.
Until the first day of summer,
he and his birthday, which falls the second day,
rarely enter my mind.
He died dry at 50, two years my younger.
To me he always read 10 years older.
You knew him for his man-ass looks,
the dance-floor moves, the endless stories
and liquid friends who filled them.
His death played out the familiar trifecta
of dying young—a lifelong overdose
of weed, wine and women, the last a guess,
judging by those at the funeral.
They out-number, out-cry
by at least three-to-one the men,
who look decidedly thirsty.
I stand at the podium, smile the smile
of the living and say what everyone
wants to hear—how we all loved him,
how he loved to make us laugh in return.
I keep to myself the blackouts and bailouts,
home’s unspoken sorrow,
the years of silence between us.
So much of himself he spent,
year after year, not much was left
when it counted, to hold back the piper.
And no one left but me and Pop,
who loved him wet or dry.
No one but me to hear Pop say,
edging to his own death three months on,
“He couldn’t wait, could he?”
Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Gravel, The Offbeat, Split Rock Review, Almagre Review, The RavensPerch and others.